The Chinese link. Members of the Ndrangheta (a powerful Mafia-style organised crime group based in Calabria ) use Chinese underground networks to move millions worldwide. This was recounted by the Carabinieri law enforcement agency member who infiltrated the organisation for over two years, leading to the recent arrest of 132 members.
- “I saw some 30 million [euros] move through a Chinese criminal circuit, a kind of clandestine money transfer,” he said in an interview with Repubblica. “The money was withdrawn, and five minutes later, it was available in a Latin American country.”
The operation, codenamed “Eureka”, involved the law enforcement corps of eight European countries (Italy included) plus Brazil and Panama, which in the early hours of May 3 raided several locations and seized some companies connected to the Ndrangheta.
- Europol called the operation “the largest hit” ever conducted against the Ndragheta, which is “responsible for much of Europe’s cocaine trade, combined with systematic money laundering, bribery, and violence.”
An international reach. “The Italian criminal network was mainly devoted to international drug trafficking from South America to Europe, as well as Australia,” reads the report, which talks of an “extensive global money laundering system” where “in order to pay for cocaine or to transfer illicit assets, the criminals often relied on facilitators using the hawala system.”
- That’s a value transfer system, originating in the MENA area, based on honour and trust between the agents in an international network.
Closing in on the shadow Chinese banks. The Italian government has heightened its attention on covert Chinese money brokers operating in Italy. It recently asked the anti-mafia commission to investigate the narcotics groups’ reliance on them.
- This heightened scrutiny came after Italian police noted an increased use of these networks, which facilitate rapid and hard-to-trace international money transfers through a network of trusted agents – exactly how the hawala system works.
- The Chinese term for this system is fei qian (“flying money”).
Go deeper. Decode39 has reported on what Italian financial police call the “China underground bank.” In March, they arrested two Chinese citizens in connection to hidden money transfers. The suspects shielded the operation with fronts such as electronics shops.